Moving from SA to Panama With My family

Hi all
I'd like to move my family over to Panama
I'm in the IT industry with 18 Years Experience , but sadly no diploma or degree
My wife is a qualified Junior bookkeeper
and my son is 6 years old

we would like to relocate and work in Panama ,even if its starting at the bottom and working our way up... even if its not in our field to start off.

can anyone recommend the best route or agents to contact to start the process and if possible fast track.
from what I can see Panama is amazing and I'd love to give my family a fresh start with more opportunities and a brighter future for my son.

If possible i'd also really appreciate help in maybe getting in touch with employment agencies that might help facilitate my job search or help with a sponsored visa.

Thank You very Much

Conrad Botha

Hi Conrad,

You can start by contacting Gary Wilson (ex Durban) at

He will guide you through the process, and connect you with reputable firms. He is a business broker and realtor (estate agent) as well.  He has tons of information.

Then read the books by JuliAnne Murphy, The Gringo Guide To Panama, What yo know before you go and More to know before you go. Get them on Kindle. I also found some titbits in Retire abroad? Think real hard by Kathryn Skelly-Bard.

I'm visiting Panama in November to start my process of obtaining a permanent residency visa, a process that takes about 2 weeks. The most frustrating part is waiting for SAPS clearance certificate...nearly 3 months after applying, and no certificate yet!

All of the info I've gathered was from Americans' p.o.v.
Maar ek dink die culture shock is baie erger vir expats vanaf n 1ste wêreld land na n 3de wêreld land. Ons is gewoond aan hurry up and wait, mense wat nie afsprake nakom nie, en besighede waar kliëntediens nie verstaan word nie.

Alhoewel...die afgelope paar dae het ek met n local guide, n rep v panamascuba, die Panama Railway Company, Bocas del Toro dives en n local shuttle service gekorrespondeer. Almal het binne n dag, indien nie binne minute, terug geantwoord, en kon ek my besigheid afhandel.

I suspect the reference to the slow service would be more applicable to service delivery companies,  i.e. painters, electricians, etc. It is also a much different process to open a bank account, but Nadine from Panamaforsouthafricans, Gary's daughter, will do everything for you. You would just need to show up to sign the docs.

Other expats suggest that you 1st plan to stay in Panama for a year before you emmigrate fully, in order to see if you are able to adapt. Don't burn bridges behind you by selling your house and moving all your stuff immediately. Your area to live would of course be determined by where you find jobs and where there are international schools.

If you need more of the info that I've gathered so far, we can vid chat via WhatsApp 0826755107.  I'm in Atlanta, thus 6 hours behind you.

Vriendelike groete,

Working in Panama is difficult. You need residency and then a work permit which is harder and more time consuming to get. A Germán friend of mine has been working on hers for well over a year. Then, many jobs aren’t open to foreigners and those that are, companies have restrictions on how many they can hire. I don’t mean to rain on your hopes but want you to move forward with eyes open.

Most expats I know work remotely or start their own business. Also, I imagine you have to fluent in Spanish for jobs here.

Before you can get a job in Panama, you'll need to get a work permit.  But you can't apply for a work permit until you have your permanent residency Visa. 

Some lawyers charge as much as $2000 for a work permit (because they are paying kick backs to referrals).    But the right price is $500.  Be very careful who you work with. 

Some international companies can hire foreigners who do not have a work permit yet.  And some international companies will even pay for your Visa and work permit if you have the skills they really need. 

There are no employment agencies that I'm aware of. 

The City of Knowledge has a list of international companies registered with them and a link to their JOBS available.


It depends on your citizenship. The easiest way for you and your family will be the Friendly Nations program if you are a citizen from one of these countries. You can get your permanent residency in about 2-3 months through this program. The good news is that at the end of this program you will be able to get a work permit on your own and you don't need a sponsor. You will have the opportunity to do business or work through this option.

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